The media has done a decent job eviscerating Trump’s acceptance speech and its panoply of lies. So I don’t need to go over well-ploughed ground. But I did want to note several Mideast-related foreign policy lies which have been neglected in media commentary. First, Trump said that Iran “Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons.” There isn’t even a guarantee that Iran was on the path to nuclear weapons before the recent nuclear deal. But it certainly isn’t on the path to getting them now, nor can it be for another fifteen years, when the deal ends.
He also went on the warpath about the existential threat posed by Islamism to this country:
To make life safe in America, we must also address the growing threats we face from outside America: we are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS. Once again, France is the victim of brutal Islamic terrorism.
Not so fast. To say France was once again the target of terrorism might be accurate. But there is no proof so far that the Nice attack was Islamist terror. Note also, that Trump didn’t use the word “Islamist,” which I just did. He used the far more sweeping term “Islamic,” which connotes that Islam itself is a religion of terrorism. Yet another of the hateful, racist Islamophobic Trumpisms which have made him infamous.
French authorities have arrested a number of possible accomplices of the Nice killer. All one can say at this point is that they all are Muslim. No French authority has provided any direct evidence of contact between any of them and ISIS. It is possible that this was an Islamist terror plot. Or it may’ve been an expression of rage at the failure of the life of a Tunisian immigrant to France who had a dead-end job and a rancid life immersed in bisexual conquest and sexual excess.
Trump made an even greater error when he said this about the Orlando shooting:
…In Orlando, Florida, 49 wonderful Americans were savagely murdered by an Islamic terrorist. This time, the terrorist targeted our LGBT community. As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.
The only evidence Omar Mateen had any connection to ISIS is 911 calls which he made to police. But nothing else in his life shows any interest in politics or Islamism. In fact, everything else in his life points in an entirely different direction. He was a closeted gay male who largely failed in his attempt to reach out to other gays for love or understanding. As with the Nice attack, Mateen seems to have been a deeply troubled individual with mental health issues.
But if you’re Donald Trump, why let truth or facts get in the way of a good story?
In today’s Times, Paul Krugman offers an alarming critique of Trump’s fawning admiration for Vladimir Putin. He calls him the “Siberian Candidate” (an ironic reference to the film, The Manchurian Candidate). Trump sees in Putin a self-made man like himself. A man’s man. A tough man. But a man who can be reasoned with given proper terms. Like Trump, Putin is a man who disdains formalities, who despises convention. They are both men who believe in a few simple ideas whose authority derives from their own personalities.
Given that U.S. policy for the past decade has been based on a profound suspicion of Putin’s motives and an attempt to contain his wild, expansionist impulses in Ukraine and elsewhere, Trump as president would take our foreign policy into completely uncharted waters. Trump has expressed profound skepticism of NATO and the alliance calling for mutual aid in the event of Russian attack. All this has to be music to Putin’s ears. Any western leader who himself favors disbanding alliances predicated on containing Russian power is a friend to the Russian leader.
This is all reminiscent of Avigdor Lieberman’s extremely close relationship to Putin. It’s widely known that the Soviet KGB recruited agents among those Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel. Boris Krasny is one of the most infamous among them. Many Israelis including some in official intelligence agencies mistrust Lieberman’s loyalty to Israel. He’s seen as the Kremlin’s man in Jerusalem. It’s also possible that both Russian and Israeli intelligence have made use of Lieberman’s fluid loyalties for their own purposes. He may serve both parties. But ultimately, the only real interest he serves is his own.
Lieberman is a leader cut out of the Trump-Putin mold. He is a former bouncer from his native Moldova. A gruff, no-nonsense figure who has no need for finesse or nuance. He says the most racist, outrageous things and pays no price for it (sound like anyone you know?). Once he even beat up a teenager who’d been taunting his son. The police investigated him for assault, but he was never convicted of any crime.
Bibi Netanyahu’s political career will end at some point in the near future. When it does, there are several senior figures battling for ultimate power. Lieberman will be one of them. Like Trump, Lieberman stands only a heartbeat away from running his country. When and if he does, all bets are off. Israel, which is already no longer a democracy, will sink even deeper into a form of Israeli nationalist fascism.
For those who have any doubt of this, I mention only the latest in a long series of affronts. As defense minister, Lieberman controls Israeli Army Radio, one of the country’s most popular media outlets. When the current station manager aired a program on the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, Lieberman became apoplectic. Darwish is the Palestinian national poet. He serves the same role as Chaim Nachman Bialik in Israeli literary culture.
Darwish’s poetry is both powerful and exquisite. His is the ultimate expression of Palestinian national identity in poetic form. His literary power derives from the fact that he uses wry irony, wit, and satire, and abjures bombast. His poetry stings, but hardly ever shouts. For this reason, Darwish poses an enormous problems for Israeli Jewish nationalists. He doesn’t throw bombs. He doesn’t brandish knives. His only weapons are words.
If Israel was a nation of all its citizens, the Darwish would be an honored native son. He would be recited on Israel’s national day. Children would memorize poems in elementary school. Instead, he was driven into exile in 1966 and never returned till a few months before his death in 2008.
But the relationship between official Israel and Darwish is an ambivalent one. He is taught as part of the regular public school curriculum, even for Jewish students. So there is some recognition that he isn’t just a Palestinian poet, but a poet of all of Israel.
Returning to Lieberman: he summoned the Army Radio manager for a dress-down lecture on the evils of Darwish. He went even further:
Lieberman accused Darwish of calling for the expulsion of Jews in his poems, said further that…the poet cannot be included as part of Israel’s narrative. He said that “by the same logic we could add the Mufti al-Husseini to the Israeli narrative or broadcast a glorification of the literary marvels of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’
Lieberman is a boor and barbarian. To make such an odious comparison he can’t have read a word of Darwish’s poetry. Even worse, Lieberman has set Israeli Palestinians at war with Israeli Jews. If the poet who represents the glorious height of Palestinian poetic expression can be likened to Adolph Hitler, can there be any room for Palestinians in a state led by Lieberman?
Lieberman already adovcates a form of ethnic-cleansing lite for Israel’s Palestinian minority. But in this statement he’s performed an exorcism of Palestinian culture from Israeli society. He seeks to cleanse not only people, but also their literature and culture from Israeli society.